Genre: Platformer, Arcade
System: Nintendo Switch (also PC and mobile)
Developer|Publisher: Orange Pixel
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: UK £7.99 | EU €9,99 | US $9.99
Release Date: January 7th 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Orange Pixel
Happy New Year
Stardash gets a special star from me for being my first review of 2021! Orange Pixel continues to release his back catalog of games onto Switch and while so far we have mostly seen his talents at work on the rogue lite genre, Stardash is taking on the platform genre with some nice Game Boy nods to boot. If you like your platformers hard and brutal this may be one to add to your Switch library.
The Story of Billy
Stardash has you play as an unnamed boy on a quest to run to the right of the screen and finish several small platforming levels. Since there is no story it’s time for me to add one of my own since that’s what I do.
Stardash has you play as Billy. After a fight with his parents he runs away with his big ol’ GameBoy. After finding a clearing in a forest he takes a break and rests under a tree. There he dreams he is a character in the GameBoy. But the game is crazy hard. He just wants to finish the levels but there are all these nasty enemies and traps that keep killing him and sending him back to the start until he masters it. He soon learns that home is not that bad after all and after mastering the levels he goes home to apologize to his parents, cleans his room and doesn’t touch his GameBoy again for a whole week.
Back to the actual game. Stardash falls into the genre of brutal platformers. The controls are simple, you can move right and left and jump that’s all. For the first few levels things seem simple enough you just need to move to the right and reach the exit. It doesn’t take long though before you have a combination of stomping on enemy heads, avoiding projectiles and making pixel prefect jumps. It’s also not long before the stress and rage built within me as death comes thick and first. Fortunately you restart instantly at the start of the level with zero loading times. This does mean though you could nearly be at the end of a long difficult level only to fall down at the last hurdle. So be very careful if you’re prone to controller throwing.
The standout feature is the Game Boy aesthetic. The whole game has this nice monochrome feel to it even paying homage to enemies from Super Mario Land (also on GameBoy). It’s funny how indie developers give more love to the GameBoy era than Nintendo themselves these days. Stardash has got the feel of a game from this era down. By which I mean you get better by playing it and dying repeatedly. Of course in the modern day this will be a design that would put off a nice portion of gamers. I sat myself down in half hours bursts to play this but I often found myself walking away after ten minutes to save my sanity and blood pressure.
Hard Enough Yet
If the main game was not hard enough for you, you can collect three stars per level each based off a mini objective like collecting coins and finishing a level under a certain time. You can also collect a hidden key per level which will unlock an even harder temple level. Finally, the game also offers a ‘flip’ mode which has you run through all the levels again from left to right, which just seems like total madness if you’re a long term platformer fan. While I was able to unlock a few stars and find some secrets I didn’t find myself compelled to repeat levels over and over to unlock everything since the base game itself was challenging enough. If you’re the type of gamer who likes your platformers spicy and brutal this is one to check out.
Stardash feels like an ideal impulse purchase if you’re looking to just jump straight into some platform action. But it is hard to ignore that the game is significantly cheaper elsewhere costing just £1.99 on mobile and a little more on PC. While the game runs fine on Switch it may be one you might want to wait till sale before taking the leap. Alternatively, you could buy the game on mobile and PC then buy another copy for a buddy.
Hold on to Your Controller
Stardash is a simple run to the right and finish platformer. The journey to get there will be tough. You may want to throw your Switch or joy cons at times so if you don’t like that sort of stress probably best to avoid this one.
The Gameboy nods are cool but the game doesn’t fundamentally do a lot to stand out from the crowd in its genre. It’s the definition of what I’ve come to call a coffee game. Something to sit down and play in small bursts, just be careful not to throw your Switch across the room.
Final Verdict: I like it